BROOKLYN, N.Y. -- The first Atlantic 10 tournament game in Barclays Center history ended unlike perhaps any other game in college basketball history.
Three technical fouls were assessed to Richmond in the final 4.7 seconds of play, and the Spiders fell to Charlotte 68-63 after leading 63-60, seemingly having victory in hand. All of Charlotte's final eight points were made via free throw, all of them by Pierria Henry.
It ... was ... weird. And even as I write this, confusion clouds the ending for the writers who have to report this story and the people involved in the game itself. It seems unsatisfactory to pretty much everyone who was in the arena except Charlotte and its fans -- and maybe even that's taking it too far. The game turned on the aggressive foul by Derrick Williams seen above. On the front end of a 1-and-1, Williams shoved Charlotte's Willie Clayton to the floor on a box-out.
But since the ball fell through the hoop before Clayton went to the deck -- this according to the officials' real-time reaction/judgment, Williams was hit with a T. And with that came mass confusion on the court and in the stands. After an elongated on-court conference by the zebras, it was determined just how many free throws, and possession retention, that Charlotte would be rewarded with.
Now, follow me here. After Henry hit four free throws to make it 64-63, he was fouled again as Richmond tried to keep it a one-score game. Only the refs deemed he was fouled in the act of shooting. Richmond coach Chris Mooney, one of the coolest customers in college hoop coaching, was so irate by that call he was hit with two technicals -- and ejected. Mooney said afterward it was the second time in his career that he has been tossed.
So Charlotte took its foul shots, secured the win and will move on to play Saint Louis on Friday afternoon in the quarterfinals. The ending was such a mess, the officials actually released a statement, after a request, with only some clarification. Here it is, in its entirety.
"With 4.2 seconds remaining during the first free throw by Charlotte #15 (Henry), Richmond #34 (Williams) pushed Charlotte #21 (Clayton) to the floor after the free throw was made. was made. By rule -- deadball contact technical by Richmond #34 (Williams) -- two shots and the ball at half court. Charlotte #15 (Henry) shot the remainder of his free throw (one shot). Any player can shoot the technical. The ball is then put in play at half court."
So, that's all the explanation we're getting for this most unusual outcome. Yet here's the rub: A source told CBSSports.com that there was actual confusion between the ref at the sideline table and the ones on the court. And the explanation above wasn't the one the teams were getting during the game.
In the news conference afterward, Charlotte coach Alan Major said the technical resulted, in his estimation, from a new point-of-emphasis protocol for illegal contact.
"I don't know exactly how it happened," Major said. The coach was just happy to get the win and extend his season. He wasn't questioning the procedure that led to the weirdest outcome most of us had ever seen.
In Mooney's news conference, he apologized for his ejection, kept his cool, but copped to basically being confused by the entire ordeal. He did not criticize the officials. But he did his best to explain the communication breakdown.
"It was explained to me that Derrick had shoved their player. And that's why they called the dead-ball technical foul," Mooney said.""At that point in the game, we wanted to foul so they couldn't make a game-tying three. They're a very good offensive rebounding team, a physical team. We had our opportunities and should've closed out the game."
He went on to use the phrase "I don't know" another eight or 10 times in the news conference and in smaller interview sessions outside the Richmond locker room afterward.
As for the foul call that led to Mooney's ejection: "We were definitely a little surprised they called it a shooting foul," Richmond's Cedrick Lindsay said.
"I was confused by that call," Mooney said. "It's a pretty devastating way to lose the game. ... I can't take it back, but I wish I could."
Richmond's season could be over with an 18-14 record. They'll wait to see if they can an invite from the CBI or CIT tournaments -- a good possibility.
Nearly an hour after the game had ended, Mooney was wrapping up his conversations with reporters but wanted to take care of one more thing before his team left Barclays and packed up for an earlier-than-expected flight home.
"Has anyone seen Alan Major? I wanna shake his hand," Mooney said.
But Major and Charlotte had already left the venue, having gone back to their hotel to prep for Saint Louis on Friday. So often, that's how this week can reel out for teams: the winners move on, and fast, while the losers are left to question what went wrong while their season abruptly comes to an end before they're ready -- and without the explanation that they seek.
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